Authors: Belinda Burke
Tags: #Erotic Romance Fiction
Myrddin bit his lip, sighed and shook his head, then dropped back down into the tangle of vines and leaves and brambles he was lying on. Time passed slowly, and the moon rose higher and higher in the sky, came to a peak, then fell. As it began to do so, sinking toward its set, the drag of Kas’ dark power ebbed away and left him…drained.
His body felt as tired as if he’d never slept at all, but his mind was working, wondering, active, and his eyes darted to the quickening of motion in the night that was Kas’ blacker presence moving through the void.
“Awake, love?” The words floated toward him out of the darkness, but Myrddin didn’t answer, pushed himself up and drew green thread out of the ground. The thread spun into fabric under his eye, a tunic and trousers.
By the time Kas was beside him, Myrddin was half dressed, and he pushed himself to his feet before Kas had a chance to bring him to the ground and keep him there. The intention was obvious in his eyes, the spark of his gaze. Kas’ power was swollen, eager, and reached out for him with licks of shade that Myrddin’s own shadow ran from.
“What did I tell you about that, Kas? You just don’t understand—well, maybe someday.” He grinned and stroked his fingers across the high, sharp arc of Kas’ cheekbone. But I have to go home now.”
“Home?” A flicker of a frown passed across Kas’ face, and he pulled Myrddin close to him. “You…no.
. Kiss me, you…
.” Hot urgency was in the words, far more meaning in them than they were intended to carry. Too much of a burden—Myrddin didn’t understand.
. Home. I’ve got people to see, things to do—I want to try to find my father, tell him I found
…though I suppose he knows, having sent me.” A smile flitted across his lips, corner to corner, and he grinned. “I’ll come see you again, if I can find you. Promise.”
There was stillness such as he had never known in Kas’ face, his faltering expression—he shook his head, but said nothing, and Myrddin wondered if it was because Kas had nothing to say, or because he had no words to say what he wanted.
. He felt…uncomfortable.
“Kas? I—” He stopped, hesitating, then took the step forward that was necessary to close the distance between them. “Thank you. For helping me.” He lifted himself up on his toes and pressed his lips against Kas’ mouth. One kiss, as requested. “Goodbye.”
When he stepped back it was with a shift of shape, man to boy to stirred and rustling wings. He stood as a hawk in the fading grass, then took flight over the wood, over the water…into the west.
Kas stood alone, watching. Without being told, he knew that this time if he followed, he wouldn’t be welcomed, wouldn’t be wanted. His lips still tasted like strawberries, despite the flavor of shadow lingering, the night and its deaths still fresh on his tongue, in his memory.
Now he didn’t know what to do. Kas felt an emptiness that was as new as the feeling of companionship had been. For the first time, he was lonely—or perhaps it was just that now he knew what loneliness was. It had been a thing he’d lived with since the first moment of his existence, unchanging as the pattern of his life had been unchanging…until Myrddin.
He had known
, but now he had
touched—touched so that his skin was still tingling with it. He had known
, but now he had been loved, was loving, and the heat of it was as intense as his own power.
To touch, love
. But the words weren’t enough, as they hadn’t been enough before, and Kas turned his eyes away from the sky and strode back to the fading garden.
Frustration filled him as he stared down at the ground, the soft impression of Myrddin’s body in the browning green. How, now, was he going to learn the words he needed? If he came back, there were so many things that Kas needed to say that there must be a thousand words he needed—
than a thousand.
His thoughts rolled over, returned to terrible promise.
he came back? No, Kas would find him if it came to that, hunt him down, seek him out. He would steal the secret of Myrddin’s words from his lips, from the sting of his overflowing soul. But that was the future, not the now.
, he wanted to do something, had to do
. Not anything, but the
He grew suddenly uneasy. To learn the words he needed, yes. But to need them was selfish. To go find them…
It was only an image-sensation, not a word, but it was dangerous. Still, he could
deny the truth of what he wanted. Not now. Not this. It had never mattered before, but it did now. He needed to know.
Love, love. Lovelovelove.
He needed to know the more of it, the other ways to say the many meanings he had given to that one syllable. The word echoed in his mind, not enough—not, by itself, enough. And there was more, so much more.
How he did not want to have to ask for a
when it was much, much more than a kiss that he wanted. How he needed a label for the taste of skin and sweetness, for the soft sensations and the rough ones.
He wanted a name for eager laughter, for moans slick and smooth as water, moans whose ripples were still moving in his mind. They created currents of desire that curled close around his need.
There was only one solution, really. One answer, dangerous and deadly as it was. To learn words, he would have to seek them out, then keep them for himself. One at a time, until he had enough to share his truth.
Slowly, then faster, he became a shadow that passed over the landscape. Tethered by neither light nor substance, Kas made his way toward the sounds of
—humans and their mortal noises, their mortal laughter.
The tribe he found was small, but full of voices. He passed unseen, unnoticed, of less weight than the wind. His ears were hungry for every bit of speech he encountered, but first and strongest he was drawn to the words of lovers, soft noises that came through windows, out of open doorways. Kas had no interest in watching them, no interest in their flesh. He only wanted the soft murmurs that filled out the red sound of sex.
He heard all the things that Myrddin had said to him, and many more. Words of love, and the names of touches and the places that were touched—hands and fingers he knew, lips and mouth and tongue, but now he learned
, learned suck and bite, throat and neck and shoulder.
Collarbone, nipples, cock, and he tasted again that tingling skin. Bend, and knees, and
, and he clenched his fingers and opened them, remembering softness. Want, and love, and lover—and need.
Fury burned in him, riled the ghost of goodbye into something he wanted no part of. The world was growing cool and quiet around him, a silence spreading.
. As he had said to Myrddin, he need only
for there to be danger…and here, there was unnecessary proof.
The soft noises of love had vanished into his own silence. There was quiet now where there had been the pounding heartbeats of lovers, the two whose words he had taken for himself.
The quiet of the dead. Lips and voices were still now, as they would be still forever. Did it matter? They would come to him with all the others, with the dust and shadow of the rising moon.
Be still, all that I am.
But it wouldn’t come—the old solitude was an acknowledgment of emptiness now. Missing pieces… There had been completion in the help he’d given, in the rite that they had made, he and Myrddin together, but—
“And you never
They were angry words in a human voice, and they came to his ears bright with the same feeling that flared in his chest at the thought of
. The only word he possessed that he did not want, and it echoed. Returned, again and again, minute by minute, to touch him with a touch that was as soft and tingling as those parting fingers on his cheek, the lips that had brushed his mouth.
By inches, he crossed the village, one side to the other, ignored those walking, wandering, leaning out their doors or working in the snow, in favor of following those furious words that mimicked his own feeling.
Yes, that was part of the problem, maybe all of the problem, maybe…
“I want to but—”
But. A second voice answered the first, equally human, but this one saturated with regret. Kas listened as the second voice made excuses, gave reasons for some unknown failure. Excuses—reasons—either was as bad as the other and neither was what Kas wanted, but he had heard that tone before, in Myrddin’s voice. He scowled, and took another step closer.
“The same thing, over and over! Maybe I should just leave!”
The angry one again.
To leave means goodbye.
He heard more words then, faster and faster, the emotion thicker in them with every passing moment. In the space of one mortal argument he learned
. He heard
and gained interest and confusion, not in his understanding but in his being.
exist? He knew only certainty, within and without. The passage of the seasons, endless, perfect. The nebulous precision of nature, and the order of things that meant all beginnings would come to their end, all beginnings, eventually, come to him…
I am death, and death is Kas, and I am Kas.
Was that the reason he had gained only goodbye? Despite the lingering spark, despite the wide eyes, those parted lips, despite
and…everything else. Despite the easy way Myrddin had let Kas take him as he would, had bent for him. Pliant as the willow—but even the willow had its roots.
“Just don’t go! Stay with me and we’ll work it out! I love you!”
Kas fled, struck by those overheard words as by some power beyond all defiance. His fury was pain, an agony of understandings.
Some words…some words were not enough for even their own burdens, never mind the weight he wanted them to carry. He touched his own lips, and he wondered what he’d done, but it was too late now to take it back even if he wanted to, even if maybe now he knew it would have been best…never to have said it.
He said it because he was alone—because it no longer mattered. The sound came through the pines and took their needles, dried their branches, came as a wind through the standing grasses above the snow and turned their green to gray, then to black ashes. No one seemed to hear him, to notice. Not here. Not mortals, and maybe that was best for them, because the voice the wood and grasses had heard was the voice that had taken their lives.
A little at a time Kas pulled back, turned away, left doors and windows behind him and retreated to the very edge of the tribe’s territory to be alone with the whispering of his mind.
But it was a human place and there was no real quiet there, no space empty in the boundaries of their claim. At the edges there was other loneliness than just his own, and the words of another mortal to fill out the feeling into something Kas would be able to express.
“Told me, she could have…I would have waited, anyhow. But what am I supposed to do without the truth? Like it means anything now. Might as well be dead, might as well just—go. Somewhere. Anywhere…maybe there’s a somewhere that’s better than here. Except that she won’t come with me, won’t be there. Damn it!”
Kas stared at the one who defied his solitude. A young man, flushed with anger, eyes dark and bright at the same time, forehead wrinkled and something on his face, something…that Kas thought he would know in his own reflection, though his memory of his own face did not include it.
to be alone.”
The boy spoke Kas’ own thought, and that was it, perhaps. Did he know what it meant to be alone now, when he hadn’t before? Many things that Kas had always known but never acknowledged were visible to him in sharp outline. He understood that this had happened
because he could hold the long black expanse of his past against that short time in which he had possessed…everything else.
Dimly confused and suffering softly, Kas turned away from the one who was alone, back to the hearth fires of the tribe. Everything was quieter now, the sunset approaching and with it a dimming of human sounds. There was still…something else. There was still one other thing, one other word he needed to know.
He waited, through the long night and into the morning, for voices to return, but neither that day, nor the next, nor the one after that brought him the necessary syllables.
Time passed, and Kas’ presence had its effect. Days—weeks—deaths.
. More than there should have been, if indeed there should have been any…and still, Kas stayed. Selfish, and he knew it. Greedy, and he suffered for it, but it was the suffering to which he had long been accustomed.
He knew, now. He could say it, but would not.
Lonely. I have been will be always, where did you go, love, leaving me lonely?
Winter ran to its end, spring curled its green into summer gold, the summer fell in fruit and folded itself away into burgeoning autumn…and still, Kas stayed. He admitted to himself with the red of the leaves that he had been hoping for a visitor who did not come. Would not come, he thought, unless with the end of autumn, the beginning of winter… Unless Myrddin had need, again, for
—the someone who was Kas.
. But that, Kas knew, was a different kind of greed than his own.
The feast of the last harvest brought with it an evening that promised frost, but only the dim quiet of a few surviving voices was there to greet it. So few, indeed, that there might as well have been silence.
Kas was beginning to think that he would have to leave, find some other place to learn the last of needed things, but a child’s voice, thin in the sunset, came clear to him. The boy was calling out the sight of a bird on the wing, turning and wheeling as it came down toward the needle-point of the nearest, tallest pine.